Sue Burkill

Discipline: Education
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Research in Professional Learning

Project Summary

~~“Reluctant leaders? Educational leadership in a research-intensive university”
For some years I have been interested in the apparent reluctance of academics to take on educational leadership roles in research intensive universities. In my professional context I have been involved in encouraging and nurturing academics to develop as future education leaders. I have found that there is a lack of in-depth research into how and why early career academics, as part of their identity development, form their attitudes to educational leadership; the influence this has on their career choice/trajectories and the implications for related institutional policy and practice. This is the focus of my doctoral research which is largely taking place in one University.
In my work I am taking a real world approach (Robson 2011), building on existing thinking about early academics attitudes to their career trajectories (see for example McAlpine and Akerlind 2010) and academic leadership (Bolden 2015). I have taken the view that a real world study of educational leadership needs to focus on complex interactions and negotiations which constantly take place in organizational and socio-cultural contexts and in order to do this I am drawing on applied critical realist thinking and methodological approaches (Maxwell 2012; Edwards et al 2014). Through in-depth interviews with strategic managers, senior academic leaders and early career academics I am aiming to understand some of the (often elusive and contradictory) mechanisms and structures (Reed 2009) which underpin the concept of ‘reluctance to lead’.